The whole Saab

I was email-chatting with Robin M the other day, and he passed on a sentiment that I thought was worth sharing here. The more I thought about it, the more it rang true. For me at least.

The thought actually came from his brother-in-law, Phil, who owns a very fast Ford Cosworth. Phil’s a Ford guy and his car has featured in magazines and done some quite blistering times around the Nurburgring.

Phil came along with Robin to Trollhattan for the Saab Festival last month. I don’t know if that was his first exposure to Saab outside of the family relationship, but it appears that it was one that made him think. I don’t think he’s converting to Saab by any means, but I think the trip proved to be an eye-opener about a make of car that he probably hadn’t given too much thought to.

The thing that Phil related to Robin, which I’ll pass on to you here, is that most of the car guys he knows are right into one model of car, rather than being into the whole brand. The thing that he noticed at the festival is that even though Saab nuts might be right into the model that they own, there’s a wide ranging respect and affection for everything Saab’s done through their history.

And I think he’s spot on.

At the car show on the last day of the festival I saw 900 owners poring over old Saab 93s and all the variations of that that you can muster. Of course, everyone’s head turned when one of the original Sonetts went past. The older cars were treasured as they’re so few in number today, but any Saab at the show typically had at least one person checking it out at any given time.

Perhaps it’s one of those things about a company that didn’t change models too often. Instead, Saabs evolved and there were discernable links between all Saabs from 1967 to 1980 in the 92-96 range and 1967 to 1993 for the 99-900 range. Even the modern units share some of that unique lineage.

One of the great things about the festival was that the car was king for a week. Save for our families at home, there was little else that mattered.

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  1. Now that I think about it, there isn’t one Saab model that I just don’t care about. That doesn’t work with, say, Buick, another marque I like a lot. I love the Grand National/GNX, the GSx, the Wildcat, and the Special, and I try to push their current offerings on anyone looking to buy a new car (after I’ve bothered them about Saab enough, that is), but I could care less about…pretty much every other model they’ve ever produced, because they really aren’t all that special. All of Saab’s models are special to me for one reason or another.

  2. Just yesterday a talked with a friend who is an Audi-fan. That is, it’s always the 10 year old model *he* has that he love, not the other Audi models out there. They are crap in his eyes.

    I never hear opinions like that from Saab followers. I think your on to something here, Swade, something that is a part of what makes Saab unique.

    Earlier this week, I saw an article about the Buick Enclave (which I know nothing about – don’t know anything about Buick either to be honest…). It said that GM saw Buick as a contender in the luxury segment and that Volvo was one of the main rivals. Is that something you agree with?

  3. Although the model range has been limited, they’ve all been winners as far as I am concerned.

    That’s why in my quest for a saab, the cars I tested had ranged from a 1993 900 commemerative edition (which I wish I woul’ve gotten), a 9-3 Viggen, a 9-3 Arc sport sedan, and a 9-5 Aero…which is the one I chose. Love my 9-5, but it is like saab crack…i am addicted, and need another one. An SPG perhaps? A 99 Turbo mmmmm. 9000 Aero? the list goes on.

    My current dream Saab is the 9-3 SportCombi. I dare say it is the best looking wagon of ALL TIME. Care to dispute it? Only the 9-5 Sportcombi comes close.

  4. “My current dream Saab is the 9-3 SportCombi. I dare say it is the best looking wagon of ALL TIME. Care to dispute it? ”

    Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon. Dispute over.

  5. I don’t know Ken, from the front and maybe side views, but the Alfa looks awful plain from the rear. Unlike almost all of their other cars, Saab was spot on when designing the tail end of the Sportcombi.

  6. Sorry, alfa makes good looking sedans and roadsters…but the wagon version is very typical looking.
    The 9-3 sport-combi is unique…pay attention to the lines!
    9-3 vs Alfa…9-3 wins.

  7. Back in June, Swade put up an article called “Is a Saab for you?”. I printed that out and have read it a hundred times. He was describing me and how I hate to get anything that everyone on the block has. So…., with all the incentives and a good dealer, I took the plunge this last weekend and picked up my 2007 Polar White, 9-5 Aero. Naturally, I had to get the ventilated seats to keep the missus happy, but I am in. It drives and handles so smoothly. Like one driver put it, “I just pointed it, and it did the rest”. the Aero is a little bouncy on our badly maintained highways (but not too much). I would like to thank you all for the help, and enthusiasm. I will continue lurking out here but will add my $.02 from time to time. First chance I get I will post a picture (or 2)

  8. spot on. i love every Saab ever made. (well, maybe not the 600. :p)

    as a result, i WANT every Saab ever made. i’m working backwards, too. started with a 9-3SS — now have a Viggen. looking to add a c900 vert down the line. my dream garage would have 7 or 8 Saabs, an Alfa, and a DB9. i think that says something.

  9. ctm: According to Bob Lutz, Buick and Cadillac are GM’s two American luxury marques, with Cadillac being the sportier of the two and Buick being more comfort oriented. Personally, I think this is completely wrong. Cadillacs have a history of being fast, yes, but Buicks have a history of being faster. I’ve always though Buick was basically the American Saab, in that they’re sporty (Buick used to be sportier than they are now, but that might change in the future) semi-luxury cars that have rabid followings (Buick’s followers are less rabid than Saab’s, but they’re still pretty devoted) and have a history of turbocharging their cars (though, again, Buick hasn’t been doing that as much lately…but, again, that will hopefully change soon). Now, since I think Buick is the American Saab, then, yes, definitely, Volvo is competition for them. The Enclave is direct competition for the XC90. The Enclace does pretty much everything the XC90 does, only it does it cheaper and in a better looking package (IMO). In fact, a fully (and I mean fully, I added every frivolous extra) optioned Enclave is still $900 cheaper than the base V8 XC90 (though, the Enclave doesn’t have a V8 option). The Enclave kicks the crap out of the V6 XC90, but the V8 does have it beat on power and whatnot. Point is, yes, I see Volvo as Buick’s direct competition: upscale (but not TOO upscale, like Cadillac or BMW) and practical.

    If GM would just let Buick have a sporty model or two again (I’m so pissed that they didn’t green light the Velite concept), they would be a serious force in the luxury market.

  10. Jeff: Thanks for the info. Always nice to learn a little about brands. I looked at Buick’s homepage, and I had a hard time seeing it as luxuary brand. 5 models. 3 SUV’s and 2 sedans all looking like Hyundai’s. 🙂

  11. Correction: Hyundai has a lot of models that look like Buicks. The day Hyundai has an original design thought is the day I’ll sell my Saab and buy a Toyota :p

    Buicks are supposed to be understated (like Saabs :D), and Cadillacs are supposed to be the ostentatious ones. If Buicks looked luxurious and expensive, they wouldn’t be Buicks. They’d be Cadillacs. Personally, I think they make beautiful cars (except the Rendezvous, uck), and if you sit in one, the last thing that springs to mind is Hyundai. Maybe Lexus :p

    Also, not to nag, but they technically only have one SUV, the Rendezvous. The Enclave is a CUV and the Terraza is a van/MPV/whatever you Euro-types call them :p


    Take a look at the average age of Buick buyers…they are the bluehairs who complain that Oldsmobile is no longer in business.

    The last sporty Buick? The reatta…and that thing was a pile of crap. It was intended to be a sports car, but sports car people didn’t want a buick, and buick customers didn’t want a sports car, so in the end it turned in to a soft handeling, slow 2 seater.

    Buick’s turbo-charging history pails in comparison to Saab, which has been dedicated in perfecting turbo technology since 1977.

    Are Buicks as safe as Saabs?

    Name a Buick that you would take to an S.C.C.A. event.

    I’m sorry to get on a soap box here, but since Buick’s last real monster, the GNX of 1987…there has NOT been ONE MODEL that an enthusiast would like to own.

    Buicks are cars for people who hate cars.

  13. Let’s do this point by point:

    Buick is the American Saab because they make great cars that a usually overlooked because they have a stigma attached to them (Saabs are for weirdos, Buicks are for old people).

    I’m 19, have black hair, and I hate hate hate the fact that Oldsmobile is gone.

    The Reatta was a beautiful car! Those things were hand built, for chrissake. The car was supposed to be a sporty car in the vein of the GNX (hi-po version of a more standard car), and was styled as such, but General Motors, in their infinite wisdom, decided to AIM THE CAR AT OLD PEOPLE AND MAKE IT BORING. It still LOOKED sporty (they look kinda like Porsche 944s, for anyone who doesn’t know), but it had been emasculated. GM thought that Buick should only be for old farts who drive at the speed of smell. That car could have been a powerhouse, just like the GNX was. Don’t blame Buick for that screwup, that was all 80’s GM.

    Ok, so Buick hasn’t turbo’d as many cars as Saab, but firstly, I blame that on GM mostly, and secondly, at least they tried.

    Who gives a flying fudge about the SCCA? I don’t want to track my cars, they’ll get wrecked. Leave that to gearheads and adrenaline junkies, as I’m neither. Besides, I can’t answer the question anyway because I have no idea what a car needs to be eligible for SCCA events :p

    Also, NO ONE is as safe as Saab, we all know that, that’s an unfair comparison in my eyes.

    I’d sure like to own that LaCrosse Super that’s coming in a few months, but, yes, you’re right, Buick hasn’t done anything really exciting in a while. I think they will in the future though. First they need to shake off the “old man car” image. They should cash in on some of their speedy history (like how the Century got its name because it was really easy to hit 100 mph, and also on things like the Wildcat, Gran Sport/GSX, and the Grand National/GNX).

    Just because Buicks aren’t as sporty as Saabs doesn’t mean they’re not nice cars.

  14. Jeff weren’t you the one who chastised those of us who made the Apple/Saab comparison?

    No flame war intended, but IMO the Buick comparison is tenuous at best. Saturn would make a little more sense (though I am no fan).

    Besides….Saabs would never sell in China as well as Buicks are. They do too well in crash tests. ;p

    (I kid, I kid. Brilliance, anyone?)

  15. jeff k: Well, Buick is a much better comparison than Apple because Buick is cool and Apple is for tools.

    I’m just kidding :p

    I don’t want to go back into the Apple thing again because that turned into a bit of a flame war (most of which was my fault, I’ll admit). I still don’t like the comparison, though.

    Saturn was created to be a technology dump for GM in the 80’s, so, yes, that would be a fair comparison (since Saab gets to be the tech showcase now, apparently). However, Saturn has always had a pretty clear purpose, but their cars have only recently gone up in quality. My family has owned three Saturns and they were all huge turds, they constantly gave us trouble (and they weren’t related in any way except that they were Saturns). Saabs (and Buicks, IMO, but I’m probably the only one who thinks that) have always been great. Also, before Saturn was created, Buick was usually where untested technology went, and they usually benefitted from it. Saturn just helped make Buick redundant in the 90s, so I’ve always kinda had a grudge against them for that.

    Buicks sell in China because the Chinese “get” them. I really hope that GM brings the new Chinese-designed Park Avenue over here eventually, they look like they’re going to be great.

  16. Well by your logic you could say Hyndai is the Korean Saab.
    Hyndia makes good cars now, right? And they have potential in the future, right?

    Buick customers ARE NOT Saab customers. End of story.

    Saab is cool, Buick is white bread.Has been for over 2 decades.

  17. Hyundai IS the Korean Saab. Every time I see an Elantra hatch, I think it’s a NG900 for a second.

    I’m kidding, of course (though the Elantra really does resemble a 900).

    I’m confused. Where did I say that Buick is like Saab because they make nice cars and they’ll probably continue to make nice cars? By that logic, Lotus is the English Saab. I don’t think that Saab and Buick have the same customers. I think that the closest thing America has to Saab is Buick: great cars that are misunderstood (ok…mostly great cars. The Rendezvous is a piece of junk, but it’s going to be gone soon). Maybe American Saab wasn’t the best term to use, but, seriously, what other American brand comes close to fitting that description?

    Saab is indeed cool, but they faltered a bit in the 90s. Just like Buick. They had a large-ish following that got pissed away during the 90’s by mismanagement. Just like Buick. They make sporty premium sedans…just like Cadillac, but Buick USED to have sporty cars, and they will again soon. I’m not trying to convince everyone that Saab and Buick are exactly the same, because they’re not, but they have similarities.

  18. the Buick Reatta the 1990-96 regal gs coupe the 1986 lesaber t-type or any of the t-type cars the 1980s skyhawk thats about it

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